Donal's picture

    Absolutely Fabless

    During his keynote speech at the Energy Innovation Summit, Dr Steven Chu cited an ARPA-E grant recipient, Envia Systems, which has announced, "a more energy-dense lithium ion battery that it says will be cheaper than today's batteries and allow for an electric car with a 300-mile range."

    CNet reports:

    The five-year-old company today is expected to disclose technical details of its batteries which executives say could lead to cutting EV battery pack prices in half in three or four years. Envia Systems' batteries are being evaluated by a number of automakers, including its largest investor General Motors, according to CEO Atul Kapadia. ...

    Envia said its batteries were tested at 400 watt-hours per kilogram at a projected cost of $125 per kilowatt-hour, which is more energy dense than most batteries and less than half of what automakers are paying today, according to the company. Its tests have also shown that its batteries perform well after 400 cycles, Kapadia said.

    If the technology pans out as its performance tests indicate, it's conceivable that electric vehicles will match the cost of gasoline cars in the near future, Kapadia and Kumar said. With more energy-dense batteries, automakers can put few batteries in the car, lightening the load and reducing costs of other electric components. It takes about four years to evaluate batteries and design them into EV battery packs.

    Now that sounded pie-in-the-sky to me, so I checked Green Car Congress for a more technical take. Not only did they have the story, Envia's CEO Atul Kapadia jumped in to the comment section to field some tough questions from the GCC crowd:

    ... What I would like Envia to evolve is into a "fabless Intel" model. If battery materials and design are key enables for batteries that are key enablers for EVs, it is somewhat similar to the Intel - IBM value chain in the early 80's. On the other hand, I do not want to go down many of our cleantech brethren that raised capital from private and government sources and never proved the model out. So a "fabless Intel" type model would make sense. My main goal in what you refer to the "cartoon" website was to get to the end-user to know that this car is inexpensive and has extended range because it has Envia enabled technology. However, I think the cartoon concept may not have been the best way for us to represent a battery company, considering the debris left behind in the past two decades. As soon as we have some bandwidth, we will come up with a new website.

    In this age of connected urban cars, it's interesting that Kapadia doesn't invoke Apple. "Fabless Intel" reminds me of the wild days of PC clones, and those jokes comparing operating systems to automobiles:

    4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

    Green Car Congress also discussed hybrid prices and adoption rates:

    Future improvements in P2 hybrid systems should drop high-volume direct manufacturing costs to about $1,200 by 2020—very close to the approximately $1,000 cost threshold required for mainstream customer acceptance, according to John German, Senior Fellow and the US Lead for the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

    GCC quotes German as saying:

        I don’t think there is going to be much of a sales increase up to about 2020 or so. JD Power had 7.7% in 2018, I’m actually below that in 2018. The reason is it’s going to take time to bring out the new technology. It will take more time to build up sales so that you can actually design the vehicles around the hybrid system and that’s where you get a lot of cost reduction.

        In the 2020 timeframe, I think you’ll see this all come together. [Hybrids] will go mainstream. By 2030, I’m saying 70% of the market. This is why I’m bullish about conventional hybrids; its not so much what’s happening now. Costs are too high, but they are going to come down.


    My biggest problem with LI batteries is the safety factor.   Charge and discharge has to be carefully monitored so that the cells do not overheat or reverse polarity which can and does cause them to self destruct in a most unpleasant manner.

    I saw a report on DW about a German Company that was developing a cell that used a ceramic composite materiel that was supposed to be nearly immune to this but it was said to be years away from production. I think VW was very interested at the time.


    Good God, man. Did you ever hear of gasoline? 

    You know, gasoline and safety?


    I am struck by these new ads on tv which you have seen!

    I mean 650 miles without refueling?

    I used to go on sojourns across America in my car. 750 miles a day was a monumental task for me! I mean it took 14 hours. And I broke speeding limits at times.

    But I am struck and sucked into these ads on tv like I am some zombie in a movie which is probably how people are elected to Congress.

    Why are we as a tribe so caught up in these ads? And why is it so predictable that the person with the most money wins elections?

    Because I guess we are all sheep waiting for the alarms and barks and yells so that we fall in line I guess?

    Two useful articles on the Leaf from TTAC:

    Review: A Week In A 2012 Nissan Leaf

    Never before has buying an alternative fuel car meant as much of a lifestyle change. Diesel, natural gas, liquid propane and hydrogen vehicles all fill at a rate that is more-or-less the same as the average gasoline vehicle and deliver similar driving ranges. An electric car on the other hand delivers only 1/3 of the fairly standard 300 mile range you’ll find in most vehicles and takes 42 times longer to “fill”. If these drawback don’t bother you, the Leaf is a solid (if expensive) choice in the green car segment, but I’d wait for the 2013 model with the faster charger and perhaps for our review on the Focus Electric whenever we get our hands on one.

    On Hybrids & Electrics: 2012 Nissan Leaf (Again!)

    1) What’s this vehicles true range?

    ... 80 to 90 miles.

    2) Is it cheaper to run than a hybrid?

    ... Insight’s cost per mile = $3.50 a gallon / 55 mpg = 6.35 cents per mile
    ... Leaf’s cost per mile = 4.8 miles per kwh = 8.5 cents per kwh / 4.8 = 1.77 cents per mile

    3) If I bought a Leaf instead of a Versa, would I ever recoup the price difference?

    More than likely not. ...

    4) Is this battery going to last?

    ... Right now Nissan offers an 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty on the battery.

    From the first article, I think this is a very substantial negative:

    For those not in the know, Level 1 is 120V AC, Level 2 is 240V AC and Level 3 is 480V DC.

    Charging the 24kWh battery will take a little over 26 hours at Level 1 via the included “emergency charging cable,” just over 7 hours with a Level 2 charger (available in some public parking lots or installed in your garage at home), or just over 30 minutes if and when 480V quick charge stations become available on our side of the Pacific. Shoppers should note that Nissan confirmed the 2013 leaf will have a 6.6kW charger which would cut Level 2 charging times in half to just over 3.5 hours. The DC quick charge connector was a standalone option in 2011, but with Nissan pushing for DC quick charging infrastructure, they have made it standard on the Leaf’s SL trim for 2012 (still optional on SV). According to EPA tests, the Leaf’s range varies from 138 miles under perfect conditions to 47 miles in heavy stop-and-go traffic. The traffic test cycle was 8 hours long and the A/C was in use for the entire test. I had no problems getting 75 miles out of the Leaf driving it like I would any other vehicle we have tested, with the automatic climate control set to 68 during a mild Northern California winter and mixed driving. Like all battery-powered appliances, your run time will vary.

    You know the anxiety when your gas tank is nearing empty and gas stations are few and far between? Sounds like you'll feel that anxiety all the time in the Leaf. Because if you get stuck in traffic, going someplace 25 miles away, and get lost coming back , you're looking at getting stuck finding someplace where someone will let you use their electricity to charge the car for 26 hours, while you walk home the rest of the way.

    I can see limiting the usage of the car to places that are like 10 miles away, in order to feel safe driving it. And limiting anything over that to the daytime, still feeling anxiety all the time.

    If you miscalculate, instead of having AAA or a family member deliver gas to your empty car, you have to have the car towed to an electric outlet for a 26 hour charge, or all the way home.

    And at home? You have to get 240V installed in your home garage, not an inexpensive proposition in every case, unless you are willing to wait 26 hours between drives.

    ... 47 miles in heavy stop-and-go traffic. The traffic test cycle was 8 hours long and the A/C was in use for the entire test.

    I know that, for me, driving for 8 hours straight, with the A/C on, is part of my daily routine. 

    Donal, off thread. I noticed an article on Huffpo about IKEA offering a prefab house, comes partially assembled on a trailer. This could be worth following. But $80K? I love the IKEA designs and products, although much of their stuff doesn't seem very sturdy to me. One thing I've used a lot is their flat mattresses, used for built-in platform beds, etc.  

    I think I'm getting ill from all the seedy politics of late and need to get my animal spirits up so am penciling up a small cottage that a local builder is going to give me a quote on over the weekend. It will be really interesting to compare costs per square foot on locally built versus prefabs and manufactured housing. 

    Check out Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House :-) I see she's selling home plans so it really has become a cottage industry.


    I have a fair amount of IKEA stuff, and it has lasted. We went to IKEA last weekend, had free breakfast, which was worth every penny, and bought some kitchen and closet goodies. I liked the Abstrakt finish on one of the kitchen cabinet displays.

    Yes Atul Kapadia is quick to jump into any discussion about Envia's battery and their technology as is evidenced here:  He must monitor this stuff rather closely via google

    In case you hadn't heard, GM has suspended production of the Volt. Right-wingers associate the Volt with the GM bailout, even though the car was designed during the Bush administration, and it hasn't gotten very good press after a battery fire scare.

    What’s ailing the Chevy Volt?

    But the scare over batteries is only a partial explanation. After all, Volt sales rebounded in February to 1,023 vehicles sold, and it looks like the fire scare is slowly subsiding. But neither the pre-panic nor post-panic numbers were anywhere near the rate needed to meet GM’s goal of 45,000 Volt deliveries this year.

    A more likely explanation is that the Volt is just far too expensive for many customers. The car gets about 94 miles per gallon, according to the EPA, but it starts at $39,195, and only upper-income buyers with a big tax bill can qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit. As auto blogger Jonathan Welsh writes, “Even if you never used gasoline in the Volt, you’d wait about 12 years before you saved enough on gas to make up for the Volt’s price premium.” (The Volt has a gas engine that kicks in when the battery runs out.)

    Indeed, plenty of analysts have pointed out that the Volt is essentially a hybrid version of the Chevy Cruze, a compact car that gets around 40 miles per gallon but costs just half as much. And sales of the Cruze have been booming. Fuel-efficient cars are doing well in this age of high pump prices. It’s just that, when consumers do the math on how much they’re likely to save on gasoline, the Volt doesn’t seem to add up. (Granted, this calculus depends on quite a few variables. If, say, gas started climbing above $4 per gallon and a person drives 15,000 to 20,000 miles per year, suddenly the Volt would look like a better deal in comparison.)


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